Banbridge RFC Official Pitch Opening with special guests and also the Ulster U17S + Youth Sides & Minis & Bann 1st played Hinch Ists.

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The President of the Irish Rugby Football Union, Mr Louis Magee, was the special guest on Saturday when Banbridge marked the official opening of their newly refurbished pitch.

The ambitious local club has spent over £100,000 bringing the pitch up to All-Ireland League standard and providing additional car parking. Banbridge President Alan Harvey said that this latest development of the club’s facilities had only come about because of support from the local Council and the IRFU. “We were able to benefit from a grant provided by Banbridge District Council and a loan supported by the IRFU,” he said as he anticipated Saturday’s events. “We still had to put in a major fundraising effort and in that we had great support from all sections of the club and the local community. We intend to play all our All-Ireland League games on the new pitch but of course our mini and youth sections will also be able to avail of the excellent playing surface during the season.” As well as the IRFU President, British Lion Rory Best was in attendance from 2.30-3.30pm and the Six Nations Trophy won by the international side last season was on display. The action kicked off at 2.00pm when Banbridge U-18s will took on Ulster U-17s. That was followed at 4.00pm by the main event, with Banbridge tackling local rivals Ballynahinch. At half –time in the senior game, Banbridge U-10s and U-11s also played their ‘Hinch counterparts. With the AIL season kicking off earlier than ever the senior sides made the most of this opportunity to test their match-readiness. Bann travelled to Shaw’s Bridge two weeks ago and recorded a win over Instonians on an eight-two try margin. Bann Coach Daniel Soper was pleased with the way his squad performed against the Belfast side. “There was certainly some rustiness but that’s only to be expected at this stage of the season,” commented the Kiwi after the game. “But we were increasingly dominant as the game progressed and the new faces slotted well into the side.” Those “new faces” included four of last season’s successful U-19 side. Half-backs Aaron Kennedy and Macauley Little certainly looked the part with the latter producing slick distribution and effective kicking to keep his side on the front foot. Prop Lee Geddis and hooker Tim Savage didn’t look out of place when they came on for 30 minutes of the action. Scrum-half Scott Nelson, who was an Ulster Junior regular over the past couple of seasons, impressed on his first senior outing. But there’s no doubt the most noteworthy debut was made by flanker Nico Vorster. The close-season signing from Boyne seemed full of running, put in a shed-load of tackles and picked up two tries for his efforts. Bann’s other scores came from Dale Carson, Adam Ervine, Kennedy, Ryan Patterson, Chris Allen and Andrew Kirkwood. There’s certainly work to be done, especially on the set pieces, but Soper will have seen enough to reassure him of the potential in the squad to produce a successful season. Ballynahinch provided a much sterner contest on Saturday past but Bann were very much in the game.

A number of youth players have been selected for Ulster squads at various age groups. Andrew Jackson and Adam Cromwell were recently called up to the U18 squad; Matthew Blain, Alex Walker and Alistair McDowell for the U17s as well as Jack Myles, Aaron Duggan, Cormac Murray, Matthew Neil and Jack Dolaghan for the U16s.

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